Lambda Legal Urges Supreme Court to Reject Religious Exemption for For-Profit Companies

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January 28, 2014

Lambda Legal filed a brief today urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject efforts by for-profit companies to block employee health insurance coverage for contraception as required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The companies’ owners claim birth control violates their religious beliefs.

Learn more about ACA and religious exemptions at the Supreme Court.

Jennifer C. Pizer, Director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project, says:

The Supreme Court has never before allowed commercial businesses to ignore regulations that protect workers based on the religious beliefs of a corporation's owners.

What these for-profit companies are seeking would open the floodgates of religion-based discrimination targeting LGBT individuals, people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations, denying them equal compensation, health care access, and other equitable treatment in commercial interactions.

In our multicultural society, respect for religious pluralism is essential.  We have laws and regulations to ensure fairness and safety for owners, workers, and consumers, without allowing some to impose their religious views on others.

Lambda Legal submitted the friend-of-the-court brief in two cases now before the Supreme Court: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. The cases challenge the ACA's requirement that contraception be included in employees’ health insurance coverage. In the Hobby Lobby case, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby's claim for an exemption from the ACA's contraception coverage rule. The Third Circuit denied Conestoga's similar claim.

Joining Lambda Legal on its brief are: GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality (GLMA) and Pride at Work-AFL CIO.

Says Pizer:

For-profit corporations build, sell, advertise, employ workers, and limit their owners' legal liability. They don't pray. If business owners want the legal protection that comes from incorporating, they must honor the separation between themselves and their companies.

This means large for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products should follow the same rules as other companies that sell products to the general public and should not be free to impose their owners' religious views on their employees.

Certainly, business owners should not be able to selectively block insurance coverage in order to interfere with their employees' private decisions about family planning and other medical treatment.

Read the brief.

Read the press release.

ACA at the Supreme Court: Religious Exemptions.

Lambda Legal is grateful to the Anita May Rosenstein Foundation for partially funding the work of the Law and Policy Project.